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“What prayer and supplication soever be “made by any man, or by all thy people Is
rael, which shall know every man the plague “ of his own heart, and spread forth his
hands toward this house, then hear thou in “heaven thy dwelling-place, and forgive.” These, then, were the methods which God thought proper to prescribe, in order to prevent the knowledge of himself from becoming extinct upon earth : a sabbath, a priesthood, and a fixed temple. The success of the institutions visibly justify their adoption, and prove their divine origin. They accomplished their object; for the fact is undeniable, that the knowledge of the true God was preserved among the Jews, not among the learned and inquisitive only of their tribes, but
the whole race universally, till the coming of our Saviour, whilst nations infinitely more cultivated and enlightened in other respects were sunk into the grossest ignorance upon this vital truth. Thou,
even thou only, knowest the hearts of all “ the children of men,” says Solomon, in the passage above cited, before the assembled nation of the Jews; and where among
most studious and philosophical writers of heathen antiquity is there to be found so full and positive an assurance of the perpetual presence and infinite knowledge of the Deity ? Yet were these his essential qualities known to the humblest of the Hebrew race, and continually recited to them on their set days and sabbaths. Surely then, if it were the object of human legislation to preserve the important truths of religion pure and unadulterated, to give them a practical influence over the human mind, no way was so efficacious as to adopt and perpetuate the methods pursued by Divine Wisdom, and of which the success is so clear and incontestable. It is not without reason, therefore, that we find interwoven with our civil polity, and protected by the fundamental laws of the State, those sacred institutions by which, as secondary means, the Jewish people was preserved from the impious worship and corrupt morals of surrounding nations: a sabbath, a priesthood, and fixed places of worship; all in their several degrees, and according to their various natures, detached from secular pursuits and
employments; abstracted from the ordinary occupations of a fleeting and uncertain life, and dedicated to the concerns of an existence which will be without end. Theimportance of the object might well claim such provisions.
The power of miracles necessary for the first success of a new faith, which was to take possession of the world without violence, has ceased since that faith was rooted and confirmed; and gospel truths confided to human custody, and guarded by civil establishments, as the highest privileges we can enjoy, are unfolded and propagated by congenial institutions. If not taught, they will be unknown; if not obtruded on the recollection, they may be forgotten. “How “shall they call on Him in whom they have
not believed, and how shall they believe in “ Him of whom they have not heard ? and “ how shall they hear without a preacher?” It is not for us to say what other plan Providence might ordain for the preservation of the Christian faith, if the system here established should be forcibly overthrown, or
h Rom. x. 14.
tamely resigned; it is sufficient to know, that the means which we use have been sanctioned in a parallel case by the divine adoption, and have been found adequate to their end; and we may well doubt whether man can propose a wiser course than that which has been sanctioned by the divine adoption.
The adoration of the closet applies only to the individual; household prayer comprises the family. Both these are unsoliciting and unostentatious acts of devotion : they may unhappily be omitted till the time once set apart for their performance shall be regularly occupied by other business, and the consciousness of its recurrence obliterated from the mind. But a nation's worship is guarded by stricter forms, is imposed by more observable circumstances; it is directed by more instructed agents, it is executed in a more solemn manner. The service of the Church cannot be neglected till it is forgotten. He who pertinaciously absents himself commits a wilful and conscious act of disobedience on every revolving sabbath. This sacred day cannot steal past unnoticed : the universal pause of business must awaken the mind of the most thoughtless; the appearance of these sacred edifices attracts his eye; the solemn sounds by which we are summoned to worship strike his ear. All these methods has a wise spirit of legislation adopted in order to call the human attention during one day in seven from the perishable concerns of this world, and direct it to those of another to which we are fast approaching, and which will be without end. That object to which the Apostle professes that he dedicated his two Epistles, namely, the putting men duly in remembrance of those truths in which they were already instructed, was surely worthy the care of those who believed in the doctrines delivered by the Apostles.
Wherefore, “ What prayer and supplica“ tion soever be made by any man, or by all
thy people, which shall know every man “ the plague of his own heart, and spread “ forth his hands toward this house, then “ hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place, “ and forgive, and do, and give to every man
according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, know